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Shelby Group II Mustang Restoration - Return To Glory
Jan Nelson And Frank Dobias Have Restored Their '66 Shelby Group II Mustang To Its '67 Daytona Championship Form
There are Mustangs with racing history and there are Mustangs with a lot of racing history. In most cases, the history can be found in books and registries. For Jan Nelson and Frank Dobias, most of the extensive history for Shelby Group II Mustang No. 6 is in their own memories. In fact, the longtime partners have owned the car for more than 37 years.
When Jan and Frank purchased the hardtop in March 1970, it was little more than a used race car, acquired so they could enter northeast enduros and Trans-Am events. They competed in six Trans-Am races in 1970. They went up against the factory-backed Bud Moore Boss 302s driven by Parnelli Jones and George Follmer at Lime Rock, Bryar, Mid-Ohio, Bridgehampton, Quebec, and Watkins Glen. "I just tried to stay out of their way," Jan says. "I couldn't believe how quickly they came around again."
The history of Shelby Group II No. 6 reaches back much further, all the way to March 1966 when 16 '66 Hi-Po hardtops were delivered to Shelby-American for conversion into SCCA Group II race cars. According to the Shelby-American World Registry, the racing hardtops were the result of the SCCA's new National Championship series for sedans, one for amateurs and another for professionals, called the Trans-American Sedan Championship, or Trans-Am for short. Lured by the Manufacturers' Trophy, Ford asked Shelby-American to develop the Mustang into a Group II race car. Rules limited the cars to a 116-inch wheelbase, a 305ci engine, and a four-seater configuration. The Shelby GT350 couldn't be used because it had already been homologated as a two-seater for B/Production racing.
The Group II Mustangs were mechanically identical to the GT350 R-Models, with a competition-spec 289, a side-exiting exhaust, lowered A-arms, a Monte Carlo bar, override traction bars, a four-point rollbar, competition seatbelts and shoulder harnesses, a trunk-mounted battery, a 32-gallon gas tank, American Racing magnesium five-spoke wheels, and other competition equipment. Trans-Am rules required that Group II cars retain the factory steel hood, the original glass, the interior (the door panels and dashpad, among other things), and the steel front valance.
Several Group II hardtops helped Ford win the Trans-Am Manufacturers Championship in 1966. But car No. 6 was the only Group II car prepared for international FIA endurance racing. It was sold to Gofaster Inc., which was owned by John Norwood. It was then entered in the '67 24 Hour Daytona Continental under the Ring Free Oil Racing Team banner. Drivers Ray Cuomo and Paul Richards brought the white hardtop home with a First in class and 11th overall, assuring its history as a Daytona champion.
Unlike its sister cars, which competed throughout 1967 and 1968, No. 6 didn't return to competition until 1969. That was when John Gimbel traded a '67 Shelby GT350, its trailer, and '63 Oldsmobile station wagon tow car for the Group II. He used it to acquire his racing license, then he entered it in the '70 24 Hours of Daytona, where he and codriver George Lisberg finished with a Second in class and 16th overall.